COVID-19: NZ polo team captain JP Clarkin facing month in MIQ with family after they tested positive to Omicron

New Zealand's polo team captain, JP Clarkin, is facing a month in MIQ after he, his wife and baby tested positive for COVID-19.

The family of five are quarantined in Christchurch, and three of them will be there for 26 days.

The closest the Clarkin family can get to the outside world is by waving to locals from their hotel room. They're spending a month in two small adjoining rooms after testing positive for Omicron.

"It's pretty hard work, and just very soul-destroying thinking how long we are here and how there's no end in sight," Nina Clarkin told Newshub.

The Clarkin family arrived from the UK on December 28 and within five days Nina, JP and their 20-month-old baby Florence had tested positive.

Nina and Florence get out of MIQ on January 17 - 14 days after the baby's positive test - but JP and their two eldest kids don't get out until January 23 - 26 days after they arrived.

That's because the children - who have tested negative - are considered close contacts.

They need to do an extra 10 days in isolation after JP completes his quarantine period.

"If you refuse to be tested when you come, you are kept in for 20 days and then released, so that would have been a shorter way for us to go through it all," Nina said. 

JP is the New Zealand polo team captain and Nina is ranked the world's best female polo player.

The family has come home for six months to compete and train horses.

"We'll be pretty unfit when we come out, we're both training while in here but it's hard in this space," Nina said.  

They've also found it hard to get any privacy, with the bathroom door taken off for ventilation.

All these precautions are to keep Omicron out of the community.

Cases outside MIQ are trending down - only 14 today, the lowest in three months.

"It's reassuring that the numbers are quite low and it does raise the interesting possibility we could eliminate Delta in New Zealand," Professor Michael Baker told Newshub. 

But Omicron cases are building in MIQ and there are fears a border failure is imminent.

"In terms of risk we are really pushing the limit at the moment," Prof Baker said. 

A risk Australia is preparing for by starting its vaccinations for five to eleven-year-olds on Tuesday.  

"The big thing is to put all our energy into vaccinating children as fast as we can," Prof Baker said.  

Vaccination of children doesn't start in New Zealand until Monday.

A month might seem like a huge amount of time in MIQ but the longest quarantine stay in this pandemic to date is 45 days - a record the Clarkin family are hoping not to break.

Health officials said stays are inevitably extended in family groups where people are testing positive on different days and their recovery is at different times. 

That's because release dates are re-calculated every time another family member returns a positive test.

The five longest stays are:

  • 45 days - Dec 2020
  • 40 days - Nov 2020
  • 39 days - Oct 2021
  • 37 days - March 2021
  • 37 days - April 2021

Watch the full story above.